While shingles is known for its painful, blistering rash, itchiness is another common symptom that occurs due to nerve problems.

Shingles (herpes zoster) is a common viral infection. In the United States, it will affect 1 in 3 people during their lifetime.

Besides the sometimes excruciating pain shingles causes, itching is also very common.

Read on to learn more about what’s behind the shingles itch, where it occurs, and what you can do to get relief.

The same virus causes chickenpox and shingles: varicella-zoster virus (VZV)

If you had chickenpox as a child, chances are you still have small amounts of VZV in your nerve cells. At some point in adulthood, you may develop shingles as a result.

When this virus reactivates within nerve cells, a rash may develop in your skin along the same affected areas of the body. With shingles, your skin may itch from the nerve damage from VZV.

In addition to itchiness, shingles can also cause:

  • burning pain
  • fluid-filled blisters
  • numbness
  • tingling
  • fever and chills

While a shingles rash itself may be itchy, the itchiness usually begins several days before the rash develops.

You may also experience numbness, tingling, or burning sensations. Such symptoms may occur within 1 to 5 days of developing shingles.

Technically, you may experience shingles itch and a rash anywhere on your body. I may be more widespread if you have a weakened immune system.

However, a shingles rash most commonly develops as a band on one side of your body, usually in your torso area. It can also occur on your back, chest, and shoulders. Less frequently, it can develop on other parts of your body, such as your limbs.

Shingles can also develop on the following areas:

Shingles itchy scalp

While not as common as on your torso, shingles may develop along other areas. An itchy scalp from shingles is the result of nerve damage along your head.

Shingles and itchy eyes

Shingles may also affect your eyes. If you have itchy eyes accompanied by vision problems, visit a doctor right away. Blindness is a possible complication of shingles.

Sight problems may also develop if shingles causes blisters in or around your eyes.

Shingles itchy rash on your arm

While not as common, a shingles rash can develop on your arms, armpits, or even your hands. Only one side of your body will be affected.

The intensity of a shingles itch can vary. While some people might experience a mild itch and discomfort, others might have more severe itchiness.

Overall, shingles may last 3 to 5 weeks. After you develop a rash with itchiness and other accompanying symptoms, you may then experience fluid-filled blisters that eventually dry and scab over.

In rare cases, a shingles itch may last for several months or years after the rash has cleared. This is known as postherpetic pruritus.

If you suspect you have a shingles rash, it’s important to visit a doctor right away. Many of the symptoms, including itchiness, may improve if you start taking antiviral medications within 3 days of symptoms beginning.

For persistent itchiness that lasts longer than the shingles infection, a doctor may recommend other treatments, like nerve agents or long-term antiviral therapies.

The following home remedies may also help alleviate itchy skin:

Persistent itchiness after a shingles rash has healed could indicate chronic nerve damage.

It’s important to visit a doctor if you continue to have symptoms of shingles despite no longer having visible signs of the viral infection.

Talk with a doctor if you’re experiencing pain after your shingles rash is gone. It could be a sign of a complication called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). PHN causes long-term nerve pain where your shingles rash once was.

PHN is most common in adults ages 40 and over. It may last for several months or years. PHN may occur with or without postherpetic pruritus.

A shingles rash stems from nerve damage caused by the varicella-zoster virus. As a result of this damage, itchiness along with pain and tingling sensations may develop before a rash.

An itchy skin rash from shingles may resolve within a few weeks as you take antiviral medications that treat the underlying infection. However, if you experience itchiness that lasts after your rash clears, consider visiting a doctor for further evaluation.